NJB Time Travel Edition Review: Wanted, A Gentleman by K.J. Charles (Spoilers!)

A black man in a cravat and blue fitted coat poses with a cane on a country road. His face appears serious and he looks directly at the viewer.

Its time for a spin in our lovely NJB time travel machine! Today, we’re going back to visit a gorgeous book. ‘Wanted, a Gentleman’ is one of the first K.J. Charles books I ever read and it definitely filled my soul with love for it, because of its commitment to diverse characters, A+ character development and its tendency to make me write all the quotes down, cause they are just so damn good.

But first, content/trigger warnings: racism, discussion of slavery, internalized homophobia, mentions of physical violence, discussion of marital rape, extortion, planned physical violence towards a MC with consent of all parties.

Some historical books try to run away from the realities of slavery and emancipation while doing romance. But K.J. Charles always looks straight at the difficult moments, without flinching and without marinating in them to an extent that feels overdone. Martin St. Vincent is a freed black gay man, living in London, doing a favor for the family who previously owned him. Theodore Swann is a white gay man who makes his living by publishing novels (which he claims are bad, but aren’t really that bad) and by running a small newspaper where individuals can advertise for romantic connections.

The only child of the family has been carrying on a love affair with someone via letters and using Theodore’s newspaper and thus we have our meet cute.

Theodore is a charming, desperately frustrating, scamp of a human, trying to get out from under the yoke of a particularly awful debt. Martin is a decent, caring man who wants to do this favor for the family that formerly owned him because it puts them on more of an equal playing field and because of some complex internal feelings about debt he was towards them, as well as caring for the young child he once knew.

Through a series of hilarious and realistic methods, they end up in a coach together, hurtling towards the Scottish border in an attempt to stop a hasty wedding. On the way, Theodore learns a great deal about being a black man in England (the stares, the suspicion, the moments when people assume a thousand things about you) while Martin learns a great deal about inconvenient lust. They cascade together eventually, with a great deal of snark and awkward moments.

Its just so god damn believable. Some of their interactions are so real and hit right in the heart. Moments when Martin corrects something so simple about what Theodore is assuming and Theodore takes it to heart. Moments when they realize both how little they know each other and yet how much they want to. It hits me, right in the chest, every time with this book.

Because the book doesn’t assume that everything is hunky dory since Martin is free, nor does it focus on the micro aggressions of strangers around him. Instead, it focuses on the real and complex moments between him and someone he’s coming to care for, who is trying to do and say the right thing and inevitably messes it up. And as someone with a marginalized identity who loves others with different intersections, this is exactly how it goes. You never know how bad your blindspots are til you slam right into them. The most important thing you learn is how to apologize and own it right.

And Theodore learns and does it well. Its part of why they work together, along with a thousand other things.

I won’t spoil the twists, turns and loveliness of the later part of the book for you. I could talk about this book for far too long, but just know that if you need:

-hope on a bad day

-two people trying to figure out how to open their hearts to each other

-hijinx

-great dialogue

Then you need look no further than ‘Wanted, a Gentleman’. I give it five stars and it lives in my frequent reread shelf, which is the highest honor I can give anything.

If you feel like picking up this book, follow the link below and NJB will receive a small amount of the cost. Thank you so much for helping support the site!

https://books2read.com/u/4j2KwX

Until our next time travel edition,

Not Just a Buzzword

 

Review: ‘That Kind of Guy’ Spoilers!

A black woman with long, wavy dark hair stands close to a white man with a close haircut and stubble. Her hand is on his chest and his hand is holding her hand against him. They stand as if they are about to kiss. He is not wearing a shirt and she appears to be wearing a sports bra of some kind.

Usually, I try to do a spoiler free review, but the squee in me will not be contained this time. So be warned, spoilers abound here!

First things first, content and trigger warnings. There is mentionĀ  and discussion of chronic illness for multiple individuals, discussion of infidelity, plagarism and unhealthy relationship dynamics. Possibly triggering would be the discussion of sexual encounters where one of the MC’s consented without wanting to, because he wished to make others happy. Some boundaries are pushed during one drunken discussion by two characters, but boundaries are set hard and respected. One of the MC’s mothers is emotionally abusive and says some painful things during the book, which could be triggering for some.

Next, what makes it rate hitting the blog. We have black woman author, white man demisexual, discussions of trauma, chronic illness being discussed openly and the practical needs of it and people with complex family histories getting HEA’s! What’s not to love?

Now on to the squeee!

So I’ve enjoyed Talia Hibbert’s Ravenswood series so much so far, but this is likely going to end up being my favorite book. The characters, Zach and Rae, are part of the same core group of folks we’ve seen in her other books but we haven’t had their stories yet. Zach is Nate’s younger brother (Hannah’s partner in Untouchable) and works as a smith. Rae is Hannah’s best friend, a divorcee who moved to Ravenswood under a cloak of mystery with three cuts on her face.

They have the most adorable set up, where Rae comes by every day walking her dog Duke (who is a tiny bear that I wish to steal) while Zach is totally coincidentally taking his break outside at the smithy. She tells him stories she’s cooking up and he enjoys the heck out of it and occasionally helps pick apart a problem.

This man is straight author candy and I love it.

So Zach and Rae meet every day and hang out, but never really seem to go further. Then, one night, they decide after a few drinks with friends to go wandering to have an adventure.

Note: This is where the boundary pushing occurs. You can probably skip these pages if you’d rather not see it. Its referenced throughout the book and truthfully, you won’t miss much by doing so. Rae learns quickly and realizes how she’s fucked up and owns it. Zach feels good for having his boundaries respected and for laying down the law instead of trying to go along.

So, its awkward, they make up and do some good communicating. Then it comes out that Rae has a convention to attend as a fledging author and needs some help to feel confident and good as her ex-husband will be at the conference. So Zach offers to be her fake boyfriend for the weekend. Trope heaven! Oh and they get to the hotel and there’s only one bed! Even more tropes!

I won’t spoil the convention for you, because there’s lots of fun, twists and turns here. Let’s just say that the fakeness starts to flake off pretty quickly, both start realizing their feelings and pants feelings for each other, misunderstand each other, have hot fun times and then have one critical misunderstanding.

As we return to Ravenswood, we get to witness Rae taking down her emotionally abusive mom on the phone for the first time as she squares herself up to talk to Zach and be honest and open with him. They talk, they kiss, its fucking perfect and cute. I want a Duke plushie to snuggle.

tl;dr BUY THIS BOOK! Its so cute and fluffy and though there are some parts where things could be rough, they are dealt with well and in a gentle way. Both of the characters learn from each other and their own burgeoning self esteem to stand up for themselves and what they want and its just beautiful. Their relationship makes sense on the most fundamental level and if I wrote fanfiction, I would write screeds about their happy life and the new puppy they buy that Duke loves and them moving into Zach’s house and making it less scary to the neighborhood kids.

Also, the dirty talk? Hooooootttttt. *fans self* You won’t regret that.

5 stars out of 5 stars and its going on my comfort reads shelf. Can’t get much better than that!

In case you take my advice and buy the book, this link will help support NJB. So follow it to fun and romance! As always, thank you for supporting the site.

https://books2read.com/u/3G2Mxp

Until next time,

Not Just a Buzzword

*I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review and I will hoard it for fluffy feelings until I am old.

 

Review: Dare to Love a Duke (Spoilers!)

A light brown skinned woman in a vivid blue dress leans back against a blurry backdrop. Her hair is done up high on her head and she wears a large pendant.

So, I’ve enjoyed several of Eva Leigh’s past books (read, devoured and whined incessantly about wanting more) and was ready and raring for her newest. However, it surpassed many of my dreams.

Content and trigger warnings first: some attempts at finding out someone’s secret identity, racism, gossip causing difficulties, different power dynamics between romantic pairing, group sex acts (with full consent of all parties), occasional boundary pushing that is resolved.

This particular series is set in a London that has within it a rather fantastic and adventurous club known as the Orchid Club. It is sultry, sexy and has amazing consent rules built into the club, which is so lovely. Members attend masked and several of her other romances have featured the club in some form. This one however stars the elusive proprietress, previously known only as Amina to the reader.

We’ve seen some inklings of a romance between her and a side character in a previous book and now we get to know what happens. Tom, the newly made Duke, has become slightly obsessed with ‘Amina’. Amina has in turn become intrigued by him, but doesn’t want to open her heart to him partially because this is where she does business and partially because she’s been hurt before.

There’s a large score of hijinx and tropes and one particularly wonderful way of solving the inevitable problem of other people poking their noses in, but I will let you enjoy those to yourself.

The thing that made this worthy of a review here and of my everlasting love is one particular line that struck me. “Understand this. I don’t want or need saving. My life is not perfect, but its mine and I’ll find my way. On my own.” Now, its a traditional strong woman sort of line in some aspects. But its also interesting that earlier in the story, they both acknowledge the power dynamics in their relationship and how complicated things are for them. Most romances involving a Duke and a commoner hand wave this away with ‘true love’ but this book actually addresses it.

Furthermore, Lucia is anxious to keep a hold of her life and isn’t wanting to fling it all away on some promise. She’s not an idiot and she’s also had a plan for her life before Tom blows in. Its a nice change of pace from some romances I’ve read. There’s a sense of choosing to make a life together, despite the difficulties and with that fully known to all parties. Again, good consent throughout this book in many places.

Lucia also has a close knit group of female friends, two of whom are in love and they have a lovely chosen family together. It doesn’t quite pass the Bechdel test, but they do have some conversations about running the club and their own needs. Even Tom’s sister is involved in the whole romance and has some agency about her choices and Tom considers her needs during a particularly tricky situation and asks her opinion! GASP!

Lastly, its an interracial marriage and that part is not thrown aside. There are whispers, there are difficulties, and they are acknowledged. Its a romance, so we don’t spend eons wailing over it, but I’m actually very ok with that. Acknowledging it is sufficient for me, as well as the characters making some real choices about what it costs.

So if you are looking for a fun, slightly angsty, hot, sexy novel that also manages to do a good chunk of things right, look no further than Dare to Love a Duke by Eva Leigh.

5 out of 5 and planning to read it again!

If you want to join in the fun, follow the link below to snag a copy and help support NJB. I thank you from the bottom of my TBR for your support.

https://books2read.com/u/mv5Y7l

 

*I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.